What got into the New York Times editorial board? They have taken up the cause of juvenile justice reform with a vengeance. Consider what they have pumped out in the last month alone:
-An editorial on the need to curb most transfers of juveniles to adult court (also discussed here by JJ Today), followed five days later by another highlighting what has already been accomplished in that area.
-An editorial on the number of disabled youth who are shepherded into the juvenile justice system for acting out.
-Two editorials on child prostitution (yes, it’s a JJ issue when the majority of teen sex workers still get locked up); one calling for better programs to help girls get out of the trade of selling themselves, the other proposing that law enforcement look harder at pimps and patrons than it does at the young prostitutes.
The parade of juvenile related editorials has been largely the work of Brent Staples, an 18-year veteran of the Times editorial board. And really, this month has not really been an exception. Over the past few years, Staples and Times reporters have produced memorable pieces on Connecticut’s poorly planned state training school, the deep troubles with the Texas Youth Commission and New York’s own plan to overhaul its juvenile system, including closure of four juvenile detention centers.
“It’s the first or second biggest issue facing the country today, I really think that,” says Staples, an upbeat guy who quickly returned our call to discuss juvenile justice. “It’s about how we form adults, it comes down to that.”
In addition to the Times’ editorial stances, The Baltimore Sun spent the summer diligently chronicling the state’s constant struggle with juvenile justice, particularly in Baltimore city.
Maryland Juvenile Services Secretary Don DeVore is a known reformer and disciple of the Missouri approach towards a rehabilitative model; he bolted Connecticut for Maryland because the state legislature there refused to sign off on such a plan. But that does not exempt the Maryland department from having to face its demons in public. Among them are: overcrowding at the city’s detention center, and the inability to track youth under its control if they are not in a locked facility, a problem that DeVore himself helped bring to light.
We hope the increased media attention will help him steer Maryland down that path, not prompt his resignation.
Any other papers doing a good job keeping tabs on JJ? Let us know.